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Coin Clinic: Color Designations

Are the color designations Brown, Red Brown, or Red a judgment call on half cents, cents, and 2-cent coins or is there some standard a coin must reach to be identified as such?

Uncirculated and Proof U.S. copper coins are considered to be Brown if they retain less than 5 percent of their original mint glow, Red Brown if the original red color covers 5 to 95 percent of the obverse and reverse surface, and Red if more than 95 percent of the surface retains this original color.

Can the original Red color be restored to a fully Mint State copper U.S. coin if, due to environmental factors, that Red fades to Red Brown?

Due to environmental factors, the color of a Mint State or Proof copper coin may diminish in time. There are “coin doctors” who will try to replicate the original mint bloom using chemicals, however, artificially-toned coins are considered damaged and of lower value. Any attempt at color restoration falls into this category.

Can the colors Red, Red Brown, and Brown be applied to circulated as well as Uncirculated Lincoln cents?

Only the color Brown is assigned to any copper U.S. coin that will grade less than Mint State.

I’ve heard that while full mint Red is the most desirable color on copper U.S. coins, the opposite is true for ancient copper coins. Can you explain this?

Ancient copper and brass composition coins are typically recovered from the ground. Due to the chemistry of the soil, oxidation typically turns the surfaces green. Not only is this considered to be acceptable on ancient coins, but the eye appeal of this color alongside the condition of the coin may enhance its value.

I have some bank notes that are too worn to be of collector value, but my problem is they smell musty. How can I get rid of the smell?

You need to give these notes a bath in a bowl of warm soapy water to which a scented hand soap has been added. Lay the notes on paper towels, then gently brush them carefully with a soft-bristle toothbrush, avoiding disturbing their inks. Rinse each note with clean warm water, then dry them on more paper towels.

Does the strike have to be full on a coin for that coin to qualify as being Uncirculated?

A Mint State coin has no wear on the high points, however, marks, abrasions, dull luster, poor eye appeal, or a weak strike will not disqualify a coin from this grade. Once any form of friction or wear appears, the coin won’t qualify for any grade higher than About Uncirculated.

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